Saturday, July 27, 2013

England {day 3}

On Tuesday morning we set out for the Tower of London. When we were first planning our itinerary, this was near the top of the list for both of us, so we were very excited.
Thomas with the Tower of London in the background, just after exiting Tower Hill tube station
and Thomas with some of the original London city wall (the lowest parts date back to 200 AD)
And here I am at the Tower itself
Our favorite part of our visit was the tour we took with one of the Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters). It was so much fun. He was both very funny and very knowledgeable, which made for a great tour. The only problem was that the tours are included in your ticket and consequently everyone goes on them. It was a HUGE group, and if you were at the back it was quite difficult to hear. We got to be very good at maneuvering our way to the front, both on this and later tours.
the White Tower
Thomas being Thomas, he started chatting with our Yeoman Warder guide about his interests in medieval history, and OF COURSE ended up being shown part of the Tower of London where visitors normally can't go. Stuff like that happens to Thomas ALL THE TIME. Anyway, here we are at the tomb of Sir Thomas More, which is typically off limits.
Most executions did not actually take place in the Tower itself, but on Tower Hill nearby. However, a few people were executed here, including Anne Boleyn. Here I am next to her execution site.
another shot of the White Tower. The stairs leading up to the door were made of wood so they could burn them if anyone tried to attack.
Thomas doing what he does best, photographing the crap out of medieval sites.
We also saw the Crown Jewels while at the Tower, but you're not allowed to take pictures there. I really loved them. Thomas on the other hand was mainly interested in the coronation spoon, the only part of the crown jewels that survived Oliver Cromwell and consequently the oldest thing there.
the Tower's famous ravens
Thomas in front of the Bloody Tower
We LOVED the Tower of London. We spent 3 1/2 hours there and felt like we could have spent much more time. But we had to move on if we wanted to see anything else that day. It was starting to become clear that one week would hardly suffice to see everything we wanted to see.

Lunch was giant, delicious, extremely spicy burritos that we ate as we walked to Temple Church.
so thankful they have instructions on so many streets
Thomas was very interested to go to Temple Church because it was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century. Sadly for him, the church was badly damaged during the Blitz and little of the original remains. Just one more reason to hate the Nazis. There were SO many places we went that had been damaged by the Blitz or by Oliver Cromwell after the Civil War or by Henry VIII with his dissolution of the monasteries. Those were definitely some rough times for England. . .and for historians who wish to see medieval buildings and artifacts.
But in spite of that, Temple Church was lovely and very peaceful, being slightly off the beaten path of most tourists. It just wasn't quite what Thomas had been hoping it would be.

When we finished there, we went to Covent Garden. We had so much fun there. There are a lot of restaurants and cute shops and numerous street performers. They actually have to audition in order to perform there, and we found them all quite entertaining.

A wide variety of street performers:
string quartet was my favorite
He is juggling knives and an apple on a unicycle, and he is EATING the apple as he does it.

Apple Market-- a really cute market of local, handmade arts and crafts. We found a lot of things we liked here.
Now, when we went to Covent Garden that day, it was not very crowded and had a pretty laid-back vibe, and we just loved it. But later in the week, we happened to go by again, and that was NOT the case. It was insanely crowded and busy and felt much, much more touristy and not nearly as enjoyable. I think the difference mainly came from being there on a drizzly Tuesday afternoon vs. Saturday at lunchtime, but our great experience there was apparently at least partially from luck.

That night I had my Harry Potter dinner: steak and kidney pie (well, technically steak and kidney pudding) and treacle tart. Thomas had shepherd's pie and apple-blackberry crisp. Sad to say, I was definitely not a fan of the steak and kidney pie. No sirree. But I had to try it once. The treacle tart, on the other hand, was delicious and reminded me somewhat of a lemon bar.

After dinner we walked over to the Queen's Theatre to see Les Misérables. Thomas had never seen it in theatre before and it has been at least ten years since I saw it with my family in Chicago. 
Earlier this year we read the unabridged novel together--well, kind of together, at least. It started out that way but then Thomas got bogged down in schoolwork and traveling, and while I finished it in March, he didn't finish until we were already in France. But I will cut him a little slack because he read the entire thing in French. Obviously the musical leaves out a lot, because that is one looong book. To me, the most surprising detail was (spoiler alert) that Gavroche is actually Eponine's little brother! And they have another sister too. And I really felt like the Thénardiers were the true villains of the novel, not Javert, and their comical portrayal in the musical just doesn't sit quite right with me. (for any extra nerdy readers, I explained it to Thomas in D&D terms: Javert is lawful neutral, one of the most lawful characters ever, but the Thénardiers are chaotic evil. How the chaotic evil characters became the comic relief is beyond me.)
But in any event, we had a wonderful time at the musical. We splurged and got decent seats, which was awesome, and it was a fantastic show. Afterwards we got some crazy delicious gelato. Yummm.

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